By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Jan 30: Stocks for protective face masks are to be replenished in the coming days while the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has today initiated meetings with suppliers and manufacturers to increase the supply for the local market.
Its Deputy Minister Chong Chieng Jen emphasised that the ministry was working to ensure enough supply of face masks in the market to meet the sudden surge in demand amidst coronavirus fears.
“In Sarawak here, there are still some stocks at pharmacies while those which have run out are refilling their stocks,” he told a press conference at the ministry’s Kuching Office here today.
He informed that there were three local manufacturers in Malaysia, all based in Peninsula Malaysia, with two of them mainly manufacturing for the export market while one was supplying to government hospitals.
“Most of the face masks in the market are imported from various countries around the world.
“That’s why we are discussing with the local manufacturers on how to allocate more stocks for the local market,” he added, reassuring that stocks will be shipped to Sarawak and Sabah.
Chong added that many areas were hit with face mask shortage due to panic-buying in recent days as the coronavirus outbreak crisis became serious while manufacturers had not expected the surge in demand.
“It will definitely take some time for manufacturers to come up with the supply and ship them over.
“But stocks are coming in and retailers are trying their best to get enough stocks for the people as well,” he added.
Chong urged people not to spread fake news about the coronavirus but work together to get out of the crisis.
On complaints over traders increasing the price of face masks in Sarawak, he said the ministry had received about 10 reports so far and investigations will be carried out to see if they breached any laws.
“But three pharmacies I checked this morning are either selling at controlled price or even below. I can still get the stocks even though the quantity is being limited for customers,” he said.
He appealed to manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers not to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to increase prices of face masks and hand sanitiser products for extra profit.
“Currently, there are five types of face masks which have been listed as Price Control Items under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011,” he said.
The price of the face mask or surgical mask varies, depending on the type.
There are three types with earlobes:
• one-layered masks at RM5 per box (wholesale) or RM7 per box (retail).
• two-layered masks, sold for RM8 per box (wholesale) or RM10 per box (retail), or 20 sen per piece, he said.
• three-layered surgical masks sold for RM25 per box or 80 sen per piece.
Two other types of surgical mask are:
• three-layered hijab-friendly masks, which is RM30 per box or 80 sen per piece;
• N95 face masks which can be bought for RM100 per box or RM6 per piece.
Any members of the public who find a shop selling any of these five items above their respective maximum prices can lodge a report to the ministry’s office.
Chong warned that legal action could be taken against the errant traders: they could face a maximum fine of RM100,000, or imprisonment for up to three years, or both, if found guilty, while companies could be fined up to RM500,000 or compound up to RM250,000, if found guilty.
It should be noted that besides the five types of face masks where the ceiling price has been fixed, the ministry also has the power to take action under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 against those who indiscriminately increased the price of other types of face masks.
“Our 2,300 enforcement officers and 1,000 price checkers nationwide will be carrying out inspection on outlets selling these items,” he added. —DayakDaily